Art of Healing through dance, architecture, and flowers

The Gibbes Museum takes pride in the community partnerships that we’ve established over the years. An example of this is our involvement with Roper St. Francis Healthcare through the Art of Healing program. Established in 2012 by Gibbes Board Member and Roper St. Francis surgeon, Dr. Jeb Hallett, the Art of Healing explores the connections between art, personal well-being, and healing through panel discussions, workshops, and an art lending collection for Roper St. Francis Rehabilitation Hospital patients. “Art can help transport a patient’s attention away from their pain or condition to produce more positive emotions” says Dr. Hallett. Now in its third year, the program continues to expand with more workshops, conversations, and artists. To learn more about the Art of Healing lending program, enjoy this youtube video created by Roper St. Francis staff, Shane Ellis.

The next Art of Healing conversation will take place on November 4 at 6pm at the Circular Congregational Church  at 150 Meeting Street. This panel discussion will focus on how architecture and the spaces we build and inhabit can lead to healing and well-being.  Expert panelists include the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation Senior Director of Properties, and Hay House Director, Jonathan Poston, and Ray Huff, Director of the Clemson Architecture Center who will join Dr. Hallett for this moderated conversation.

Hard Light in Trumbo Street, 1934

An example of Charleston architecture by artist Prentiss Taylor

 

Dr. Hallett will ask probing questions such as: why have certain elements of architecture remained critically important over time? Why is light important to well-being, and how does certain forms such as Palladian windows and columns persisted over time? (The original term for a Palladian window is a serliana (or a Serlian Motif).  It is an archway or window with three openings, the central one arched and wider than the flanking openings (which were rectangular and enclosed at the top by an architrave). The Italian Renaissance architect/master builder, Andrea Palladio, 1508-1580 popularized this architectural motif.) The panelists will discuss Charlestonian architectural styles such as the Single House to examine the ‘health benefits’ of this design. The Art of Healing discussions include interactive discussions with the audience, which are always engaged and intimate.

This is sure to be an interesting and lively discussion, and a cocktail reception will follow the discussion.

Art of Design 2014

Flowers by Gretchen Cuddy for the 2014 Art of Design luncheon

One December 10 at 6pm, the Art of Healing: Flower Power will be held at the Thomas Bennett House on 69 Barre Street. Dr. Hallett will be joined by floral design expert Gretchen Cuddy as well as Clara Varga-Gonzales of Tiger Lily Florist. Cuddy and Varga-Gonzales will discuss why flowers and horticulture appeal to our senses and discuss why implementing natural elements in the home and other buildings can promote well-being.
Amanda Breen, Membership Coordinator

Rice in the Lowcountry: The Art of Jonathan Green and Alice Ravenel Huger Smith

Rice Plantation by Jonathan Green

Rice Plantation by Jonathan Green

Though the building may be closed, the Gibbes Museum of Art remains as open as ever. This fall we have a stellar lineup of programs and events, including the next installment of our Insider Art Series, Rice in the Lowcountry: The Art of Jonathan Green and Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. Scheduled for Thursday, October 30, this one-night event will feature a display of 21 works by two of Charleston’s most beloved artists, both of whom created paintings focused on rice cultivation.

Mending a Break in a Rice-Field Bank, from the series A Carolina Rice Plantation of the Fifties

Mending a Break in a Rice-Field Bank, by Alice R. H. Smith

Alice Smith has long captured the imagination of museum visitors, and her Rice Plantation series is one of the main reasons why. These beautifully-rendered watercolors were created circa 1935 to illustrate the publication A Carolina Rice Plantation of the Fifties. A selection of ten paintings from the series will be on view, paired with eleven paintings from Jonathan Green’s rice series. Together, the works explore the history of rice cultivation and the people and agricultural processes behind the rice industry.

The evening of October 30th will also feature a silent auction of four paintings from Green’s rice series. This is a rare opportunity to view and purchase one of Green’s works for your personal collection. And you can learn more about the paintings directly from the artist himself. Green will be in attendance, which is sure to make the evening a memorable one. So mark your calendar and be sure to join us for this wonderful Insider Art Series event!

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.gibbesmuseum.org/events or call (843) 722-2706 x21.

 

Simplicity, Q & A with author and designer Nancy Braithwaite

Nancy Braithwaite

Author and designer Nancy Braithwaite

“After 25 years of exposure to the best work out there, I’ve found that it’s simplicity that’s the hardest thing to do well. It is an art. And Nancy Braithwaite has perfected that art . . . I think she’s one of the great American designers of our day.”

—Dara Caponigro, from the Foreword

Nancy Braithwaite has established herself as one of the most distinctive American designers of our time. Long before spare, sophisticated spaces came into fashion, Braithwaite was renowned for her discerning eye and ability to pare down a room to its ideal essentials while simultaneously building a luxurious sensibility. It is appropriate, then, that her first book is titled SIMPLICITY. As she herself points out in the introduction, “There is nothing simple about simplicity. Simplicity is complexity.” For Braithwaite, simplicity does not mean minimalism. In her hands, less becomes more and minimal becomes powerfully sensuous. Simplicity, for her, is a discipline in design that balances function, comfort, and wonderment.

SIMPLICITY opens with Braithwaite’s conviction that a designer must not merely look—but actually “see”—in a critical way. That degree of discernment, she believes, leads to an understanding of design integrity that only results from an educated, principled, and disciplined eye. It is that way of seeing that she brings to the world of interiors. At the first evaluation of every project, she assesses its fundamental design elements: architecture, composition, proportion and scale, color, pattern, texture, and craftsmanship, and their interrelationships. Full-color photographs on nearly every page gloriously illustrate these essential design attributes as they appear in country, classic, and contemporary settings, her three broad categories for classifying the entire stylistic spectrum.

Throughout SIMPLICITY, Braithwaite invites readers to “see” the simplicity that is her goal in every undertaking. As a designer, she moves seamlessly across stylistic boundaries. SIMPLICITY features homes from around the country and from across the historical continuum, including her family’s own unforgettable country house in Atlanta and her stunning contemporary seaside retreat on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, as well as memorable classic residences in New York City, Chicago, and Atlanta. All these homes will stand the test of time, because in Braithwaite’s hands, and through her eyes, simplicity is, ultimately, timeless.

Nancy is the featured speaker at the upcoming Art With a Twist event on October 22 titled, “The Art of Simplicity.” She will join sweetgrass basket artist and 2008 MacArthur Fellow Mary Jackson, to talk about their craft. Nancy was kind enough to take a few moments to talk with us about her design style, inspiration, and creative process.

When did you realize you had a passion for design?

I’ve had a love of design since I was a little girl. When I was 7 or 8 years old I used to make everything with my hands. If you can believe it, it all started with homemade nail dolls!

Describe your design style.

Simplicity — bringing to a design elements that are essential and meaningful, nothing that’s distracting to the eye.

Tell me about your inspiration for writing the book, Simplicity.

After working around the country for over 30 years and having the chance to do some incredible projects, I was ready to tell my story and show readers how simplicity really works and why it’s so important.

Mary Jackson Cobra with Handle

Mary Jackson’s Cobra with Handle

You have long been a collector of Mary Jackson’s work. Tell me about your friendship.

We met years ago at a crafts show and I was immediately intrigued by her work and then even more intrigued after meeting her in person. It’s been a joy to get to know her and to become friends, sharing our passion for craftsmanship and creativity. Anything of excellence interests me and Mary is truly excellent.

Born and raised in Chicago, renowned interior designer Nancy Braithwaite launched her career as an industrial designer after receiving her design degree from Michigan State University. In the thirty years since she formed Nancy Braithwaite Interiors, her acclaimed Atlanta-based firm, Braithwaite’s work has graced the pages of numerous national shelter magazines, books, and newspapers, including Veranda, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Town & Country, and The New York Times. Veranda named Braithwaite a “Magic Maker” in 2013, and in its Silver Anniversary issue the previous year, featured one of her rooms among the 25 most beguiling interiors it had ever published. Braithwaite is a regular on House Beautiful’s list of America’s Top Interior Designers, and Barbara Barry has said she is “one of the best living interior designers.” Atlanta magazine calls Braithwaite “the Grande Dame of Atlanta Design” and credits her as being “essential to putting Atlanta on the interior design map.” Additionally, when Braithwaite was just starting her career, Town & Country identified her as a newcomer to watch. In addition to directing her design firm, Braithwaite and her daughter Chaffee own and operate Baby Braithwaite, a highly successful, fashion-forward baby boutique in Atlanta. Braithwaite lives with her husband Jim in Atlanta, where their children and grandchildren also reside. The family vacations together in a stunning contemporary dwelling designed by Braithwaite on Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

Don’t miss this special evening with Nancy and Mary!

Art with a Twist: The Art of Simplicity, An Evening with Designer Nancy Braithwaite and Artist Mary Jackson

Wednesday, October 22, 6pm

 $20 Members, $30 Non Members

Location: Charleston Library Society, 164 King Street

To purchase tickets or for more information please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21.

 

 

Dancing through Life as Art

At the upcoming Art of Healing series, Nia faculty member and teacher trainer Stephaney Abilon will be offering a 2 hour workshop that effects both the brain and the body. Stephaney explains that Nia (pronounced Nee-Uh) is based on 13 principles, the soul of which is the ‘Joy of Movement'; the thing that makes the body feel ALIVE!

Art of Healing Dance

Stephaney Robinson-Abilon, Nia training faculty member

In the Dancing Through Life as Art workshop, our primary focus will be 3 Parts:

1) Learning that when the body is doing everyday movements, such as walking, and opening doors, etc. we can learn to move our bodies in ways that feel easier, lighter and more free.

2) Discovering the mental benefits that occur when the body is in non-movement to create a living meditation.

3) Begin to perceive everything around us, even ordinary objects as art.

These three components utilize awareness as a key component, without awareness the body simply can’t know anything. This ‘life as art’ perspective creates a body that physically feels better, a brain that has more mental clarity and sense of calm, and provides for everyday inspiration. I like to describe this as living in a body, mind, and spirit that are filled with peach juice as opposed to battery acid! This lifestyle approach can be self-healing on many levels.

Nia dance class

An example of a Nia dance class, from nianow.com

Nia is more than just an exercise containing 13 principles, 52 moves, music and movement forms, it is a lifestyle practice that can change both your body and your life. This workshop will combine philosophy and movement; movement that is simple and available for everyone regardless of fitness level. Nia appeals to professional athletes and dancers as well as arthritics and people with back pain. Nia is available to all.

In this workshop, I will provide participants with tools that allow the body to feel better and more alive, and providing an inspiring way to view the world. Dancing is not separate from life, it exists in our everyday movements. Similarly, art not only exists inside a frame, it exists in everything that surrounds us and can be perceived as such. This will be an opportunity for participants to become inspired as well as embracing their body’s potential to move in such a way that every movement contains beauty, strength, and self-healing.

Stephaney Robinson-Abilon, Faculty Member of Nia Training and Faculty Member of the Sophia Institute

Art of Healing: Dancing Through Life as Art

Tuesday, October 7, 5:30-7:30pm

$35 Museum Members, $45 Non-Members

Location: Hazel Parker Community Center, 70 E. Bay St.

All classes require advanced registration. To register, please visit the website for a registration form or contact Rebecca Sailor at rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org or 843.722.2706 x41.


Stellar Sculpture and Other Exciting Summer Acquisitions

Faith, 1866–1867

Faith, 1866–1867
By Hiram Powers

New acquisitions to the collection are always exciting, and this summer the Gibbes has been very fortunate. Thanks to William and Susanne McGuire and the McGuire Family Foundation, an acquisition fund was established in 2011 to bolster the museum’s sculpture collection in preparation for the renovation and reopening of the Gibbes. Recognizing the significance of the Rotunda gallery to the architectural history of the building and to visitors’ experience, the McGuires have been working closely with the Gibbes staff for the last three years to find sculptural pieces that will enhance the reinstallation of the collection in this magnificent gallery which was originally designed to function as a grand sculpture gallery. Our goal has been to locate exceptional examples of nineteenth-century marble sculpture by American artists in keeping with the tradition of Charlestonians who patronized American artists working in Italy during that era. This summer, two remarkable works of neoclassical sculpture were secured as part of this effort. Full size busts of Faith, by sculptor Hiram Powers and Helen of Troy by Pierce Francis Connelly (a student of Powers’) are premier examples of work by these nineteenth-century American artists. These remarkable statues will soon reside in the beautifully restored Rotunda, with the support of Board members Susan and Van Campbell.

Helen of Troy” by Pierce Francis Connelly

Helen of Troy” by Pierce Francis Connelly

In addition to our major sculpture acquisitions we also received a very generous donation of two watercolor paintings Wednesday Chores (2004) and Sweet Potato Pie (1998) by Charleston artist Mary Whyte. Donated by David Inge of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, these works are featured in Whyte’s book Down Bohicket Road: An Artist’s Journey. Paintings from this series— including the two in this donation—document the Gullah women of the Hebron Saint Francis Center on John’s Island. Soon after her permanent move to Charleston, Whyte joined the group’s weekly fellowship meetings and began to sketch portraits of the women and their activities—bible study, quilting and meal preparation. The experience represents a turning point in the artist’s career and resulted in an acclaimed series of watercolors honoring the women and their dedication to family and faith.

Wednesday Chores, 2004, by Mary Whyte

Wednesday Chores, 2004, by Mary Whyte

Finally, as part of our effort to develop an outstanding collection of contemporary art by southern artists, the Gibbes purchased Wave Upon Wave (2014) by John Westmark from the recent solo exhibition John Westmark: Narratives organized by the Gibbes and on view from April 4–August 3, 2014. Westmark was the 2012 recipient of the Factor Prize for Contemporary Southern Art (now the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art). His large-scale paintings explore the human figure through an innovative use of text and paper sewing patterns collaged on canvas. Westmark’s paintings depict strong courageous women, some portrayed as stoic martyrs and others as warriors engaged in conflicts of rebellion.

Wave Upon Wave, 2014

Wave Upon Wave, 2014
By John Westmark

We are looking forward to seeing all of these new additions to the permanent collection on view in the renovated gallery spaces!

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections

Society 1858 Announces Sonya Clark as the 2014 Winner of the 1858 Prize

Sonya Clark

Artist Sonya Clark

Society 1858, an auxiliary group of the Gibbes Museum of Art, is pleased to announce Sonya Clark as the 2014 winner of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art. Awarded annually with a cash prize of $10,000, the 1858 Prize acknowledges an artist whose work demonstrates the highest level of artistic achievement in any media, while contributing to a new understanding of art in the South. This year, over 250 artists from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia submitted applications. Clark is the first female artist to be awarded the 1858 Prize. Her work examines contemporary issues of gender and race through a variety of mediums.

“Sonya Clark is a phenomenal artist whose intellectual rigor and thoughtful approach to materials stands out from the crowd. Her work truly embodies the spirit of the 1858 Prize and its mission to contribute to a new understanding of contemporary southern art,” says Gibbes Museum Curator of Exhibitions, Pam Wall.

Clark holds an MFA (Cranbrook Academy of Art), a BFA (Art Institute of Chicago), and a BA in psychology (Amherst College) and chairs the Department of Craft/Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Her work has been exhibited in over 250 museums and galleries in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, Australia, and throughout the United States. She uses objects such as cloth, hair, and combs to give voice to the complexity of American identity and history. Simple objects become an interface for dialog that ranges from the vernacular to the political to the poetic.  Her work includes a variety of mediums. In “My Hair Craft Project (Jamilah)” she engages Southern hairdressers to use her body as canvas to re-frame Black hairdressing as art.

Black Hair Flag by Sonya Clark

Black Hair Flag by Sonya Clark

“Given the calibre of the finalists, I am absolutely humbled to be chosen for the 1858 Award. The complexities and the simplicities that drive the content of my work will be amplified by this generous support. I am both buoyed by this endorsement of my past work and eager to delve into the well of the next possibilities. To the folks in Society 1858 at the Gibbes Museum: thank you, thank you, thank you,” says Sonya Clark.

 

1858 Unveiling Party

Sonya Clark with finalist Jim Arendt and his wife (and 7 week old baby!) at the Unveiling Party

Clark came to Charleston for the Unveiling Party on Thursday evening to speak to a sold-out crowd of over 150 attendees at the Vendue. She spoke to Adam Parker, Arts Editor of the Post and Courier and said ” Always I am fueled by curiosity in the ways we are uniquely individual and yet inherently connected.” read the rest of her interview here.

Clark’s work is on view  at Crystal Bridges Museum as part of the State of the Art, Discovering American Art Now exhibition that opened September 13 and runs through January 19, 2015.

Unveiling Party photo by Carolina Photosmith

Miniature Painting by David Gillespie

There can be no doubt that our interest in miniature painting was most certainly influenced, and nurtured by studying, admiring, and conversing over the incredible collection of original miniature paintings housed at the Gibbes Museum of Art. South Carolina seems to have been particularly fond of miniature painting, as evidenced by many resident miniature painters, itinerant miniature painters, and patronage of its citizenry over the centuries.

David and Renee at Middleton Place

David & Renee demonstrated Miniature Painting in our Colonial Clothes at Middleton Place. Notice the Miniature of Renee around my neck!

For Renee and me, the interest we share in the fine arts, along with our interest in 18th century history has, for us, its perfect marriage in miniature painting. We decided to seek out an instructor of this discipline, and truly found a gem. Under the tutelage of Mrs. Joan Cornish Willies, a member of the Royal Miniature Society of England, we have been learning the European mode of miniature painting. Ms. Joan has been painting miniatures since around 1937 and has kindly taken us under her wing. She has brought an almost extinct art form back to life for us.

Nathaniel Russel, 1818, by Charles Fraser

A miniature of Nathaniel Russel, 1818, by Charles Fraser

We consider it an honor and blessing to have her as an instructor, a considerable resource, and now a dear friend. Ms. Joan has taught us how to mix our own paint from gemstone pigments such as Lapis Lazuli, and Jasper. Much in the spirit of Charleston’s own Charles Fraser, we take great satisfaction in mixing our own pigments when possible to not only get a more unique and valuable miniature made of precious materials, but also to use pigments which have shown they will stand the test of time. At present, I am painting a miniature portrait of Renee that is 2 and a half inches high and utilizes Lapis Lazuli blues, Jasper reds, and Amethyst for some purples, with 24 carat gold lettering that will be housed in a 24 carat gold oval frame meant to be worn.

I initially began painting in oils, but am now using watercolors, which is the medium used in many of the miniatures at the Gibbes. Using a series of nearly a half a million cross hatches, strokes, and dots per painting, the portrait begins to take life. Only small amounts of paint are used. The watercolor is built up slowly, all the while allowing the bright color from the ground or material painted on to show through. A letter from 1800 which describes the painting process in great detail, as well as a treatise written by Nicolas Hilliard during the reign of Elizabeth I, are source materials for using period techniques and getting into the process of these works of art that are also worn as jewelry. Having its roots in Medieval Illumination, Hans Holbein the Younger brought miniature painting to England, and was court painter to King Henry VIII. From the 1530’s to the present, it is fascinating to see how the the miniature has evolved and is still a much valued art.

Miniature Painting by David Gillespie

David’s toolbox

Renee is painting subject miniatures in oils while I am focusing mostly on portraits in watercolor. Our presentation at the Gibbes will show the watercolor technique using period appropriate materials, all from a teak wood box that can be neatly tucked under my arm and carried about from place to place, much like those of the 18th and 19th centuries. We will explain some of the tools, techniques, and pigments, and share with the audience our passion for what we consider one of the most fascinating forms of art not only from our past, but also relevant to the present.

Join David, Renee and Gibbes Curator of Collections, Sara Arnold to learn more about the art of miniatures with Tokens of Affection: Miniature Portraits from the Gibbes Collection.

Saturday, September 27, 10am-12noon

Location: The Charleston Museum, 360 Meeting Street,

$35 Gibbes and Charleston Museum Members, $40 Non-Members

To register, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21.

Renee Gillespie, has a Bachelor Degree in Art from Washington College in Chestertown, MD, and also studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Renee is currently practicing the nearly lost art of miniature painting. Taking instruction from a member of England’s Royal Miniature Society, the oldest miniature society in the world, Renee has been learning the art and discipline in the European Mode. Renee also is gifted in Natural Dyeing, and Batiking. Her Indigo Dyed Cloth has been purchased by the Smithsonian Institution.

David Gillespie, is a full time stone carver, miniature painter, and a 10th generation South Carolinian. He also has authored the recent book, A Brief Treatise on Tomb and Grave Stones of the Eighteenth Century. David is a member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, Pickens County SC Historical Society and is a grant recipient of the South Carolina Arts Commission for his stone work. He has just been selected by the magazine Early American Life as one of America’s Best Craftsmen and selected for the Directory of Traditional Crafts in the August 2014 issue.

More about David and Renee can be found at their website at pumpkintownprimitives.com

 

Marketing and Public Relations in the Art World

Interning for the Gibbes Museum of Art this summer has been the experience of a lifetime. Not only did an incredible museum and staff surround me, but also I was able to confidently declare Public Relations as my dream occupation. I was fortunate enough to work for Amy Mercer, the Marketing and Communications Manager at the Gibbes, in assisting her during this exciting time of change for the museum. Mrs. Mercer informed me early on that this summer would be a different internship experience than those from the past, due to the upcoming 16-month renovation. However, this period of transition was the perfect time for me to learn more about marketing and public relations in the real world.

Rose Cochran

Marketing Intern Rose Cochran with her favorite painting by John Westmark, The Catch

My initial tasks included updating Facebook posts, taking pictures for Instagram, and creating a Vine account for the museum. Shortly after I was organizing press releases, promoting events, and attending branding workshops, all of which were fantastic learning opportunities. Because the Gibbes Museum is a non-profit organization, support from the community is a necessity. I watched Mrs. Mercer work endlessly and passionately to promote the museum in a positive way during this exciting time. My eyes were opened to the influence that each word has in an organization’s mission statement. These messages are chosen carefully in order to fully exemplify the organization’s goal. I was lucky enough to observe this process during a crucial time and assist the staff in researching a branding strategy for the Gibbes Museum.

During this internship I also learned that event planning is a critical component of public relations. The two departments work together in order to involve the community and benefit the museum. The programs and events that the Gibbes offers are all unique, educational, and fun. These events are constantly celebrating local talent and inviting the public to join in. With each program, the Gibbes creates a stimulating event that always affects the community in a positive and uplifting way.

Art of Healing with John Westmark

Art of Healing discussion with John Westmark

One of my favorite programs currently offered by the Gibbes is the Art of Healing, sponsored by Roper St. Frances Healthcare. This program is paving the way for people to understand the influence that art can have during a healing process. The Gibbes has created a lending collection of 22 paintings, currently being used at the Roper Rehabilitation Hospital. Local artists have donated these works for hospitalized patients to hang in their rooms during their stay. The hope is that these paintings will provide relief to the distressed and facilitate their recovery process. The Gibbes also offers panel discussions with local doctors to speak about current exhibitions, and how art can benefit us in our daily lives. My exposure to the Art of Healing began with an informative and inspiring panel discussion with artist John Westmark. Psychiatrist Linda Austin and Dr. Jeb Hallet discussed the art of healing in relation to Westmark’s exhibit Narratives earlier this summer. Not only is the Gibbes  providing the city of Charleston with a beautiful museum full of wonderful history, they are also providing an outlet of relief through art.

The Gibbes Museum of Art will continue to grow, inspire and change lives. The upcoming renovation will provide the public with a creative learning center while remaining an establishment that cherishes the community and Charleston’s history. I feel incredibly proud and accomplished to have interned for such a remarkable organization and I wish the museum all the best in the years to come.

Rose Cochran, Rising Sophmore at Sewanee, Marketing Intern, and Guest Blogger

The Art of the Sea with Val Kells

Marine Science Illustrator Val Kells is an ‘obsessive compulsive’ fisherman. A photo of Kells on her website shows her proudly displaying a Permit that she caught off Cudjoe Key in 2011. “I take a photograph of every fish I catch before I release it,” she says.

Val Kells

Marine Science Illustrator Val Kells at home on the water

Kells is a full-time, highly trained, freelance scientific illustrator with over 30 years of professional experience. She works closely with educational, design, and curatorial staff to produce accurate and aesthetic scientific and interpretive illustrations. She has created over 2,000 illustrations for a wide variety of clients including publishers, designers, master planners, museums, nature centers, and public aquariums and is the coauthor of A Field Guide to Coastal Fishes – from Maine to Texas. “This comprehensive guidebook to all of the fishes found along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts should become an integral part of the library of any naturalist, angler, or fish enthusiast,” says Edward O. Murdy, National Science Foundation.

Val Kells Book Cover

A comprehensive guide book to coastal fishes

She is currently working on the Pacific coast version which will include close to 800 species and will be published in the spring of 2016. These comprehensive books are used in classrooms, labs, and on boats by students, scientists, and nature lovers. “I love when people send me photographs of themselves on a boat with a fish in one hand and my book in another,” she says. Kells says her work is ongoing and she will unlikely run out of subjects to illustrate.

Kells’ research is meticulous and each illustration can take up to a full day to complete. She works from her studio in Virginia with the support of an extensive network of associates and colleagues across the country.  She begins with a preliminary pencil drawing to ‘work out the kinks’ paying close attention to the morphology of the species from the number of scales to the placement of fins. When she is satisfied, she transfers the drawing to watercolor paper and begins to paint. “I go into a Zen mode at this point. I turn on some Bruce Springsteen and paint until it’s done.”

Kells began drawing as a very young girl in Rye, New York, and studied art throughout high school. “I also had a deep love of the natural environment from the time I was young. And when my parents sent me to a summer camp in the Florida Keys, I decided that I wanted to be a marine biologist,” she adds. After studying Marine Biology at Boston University, she transferred to UC Santa Cruz in 1983 and ‘fell upon’ the (then) newly established Science Illustration Program where she was able to combine her two loves: art and science. One of her first clients was the Monterey Bay Aquarium and since then she has worked with over 25 aquariums and museums around the country including the Florida State, Long Beach, and North Carolina aquariums. Kells also worked for our own South Carolina Aquarium when it first opened.

One of the best compliments she received was when a woman mistook her paintings for photographs. Her illustrations are precisely detailed and she says, “The artwork I create cannot be produced by photographic or digital means.” She enjoys working with fishes that are unusual and mimic coral or those that have evolved in fascinating ways. “I also love painting iridescent fishes like Billfishes, Tunas, and Mackerels because they allow the watercolor to do what it does best.” The love of her work and the fishes she carefully constructs on paper is evident in each illustration.

During her upcoming discussion “Art of the Sea” at the South Carolina Aquarium, she will discuss the continuing value of original drawings and paintings in a visual world awash with digital photographs.  Join us for another fabulous Art With a Twist Event to hear Val Kells speak about her creative process on September 24 at 6:30 pm!

For more information about Val Kells visit: www.valkellsillustration.com

Location:  SC Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf

Reception and Book Signing will follow.

$20 Members, $30 Non-Members

Science + Art + Poetry= Creative Kids

It has been quite some years since I spent a week at summer camp, much less a week inside a school during the middle of the summer.  I have never been expected to combine museum art, music, science, and writing as a student, much less a teacher, but a few weeks ago all that changed.

As a writer, I often respond to art through “Ekphrasis,” a dramatic, literary description of visual work of art.  And I love to teach that exploration of the known and unknown to others.  When Engaging Creative Minds said they were putting a camp together for this summer that was all about putting the arts and science together (read geek here) for kids, I said “Sign Me Up!!”  About the same time, I met Elise Detterbeck and Rebecca Sailor of the Gibbes Museum and learned about the art education program, and when we spoke about the possibility of collaboration at some point, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.  I have learned to trust this instinct.  It does not denote fear to me. It is the actual feeling of YES, do this, take this path. And that is how the partnership between the Gibbes Museum and my teaching for this summer’s STEAM Camp began.

STEAM

Summer STEAM camp at the School of the Arts

For the week of Gravity, Static Electricity, Magnetism, and Force students, 50-plus 3rd graders and I wrestled images, our bodies, words, and music, and then wrested poems and drawings that invited these concepts of science and the arts to play in our classroom.  I admit that at the beginning, I was daunted by the initial attempt to line up still images from the Gibbes’ collections with these science principles.  Not only because these concepts demand a sense of actual physical movement, but because as a writer and teacher, I wanted my students to understand that these science words, especially gravity and force, mean more than what is seen in a science lab.  This is what the arts bring to the mind, the imagination, the heart.  If I could not give them a glimpse of what else a vortex or a game of tug of war might mean on that “other” level, I would feel I had not done my job.

Each day at camp we began with scientific definitions, of dictionary definitions. We imagined what color gravity is, how static electricity tastes, how magnetism sounds, how force smells, what they all feel like to touch, to be touched by them. Then we looked at the image-texts provided by the Gibbes for us, and let our wonder spill out into our bodies and onto paper.  It is very important to keep 3rd – 5th graders moving!

On day one, we talked about gravity, what holds us and what holds us down and about defying gravity, as we looked at Eden’s Wizard of Oz Series “Inside the Witches House.” Day 2, we stepped up to the Smart Board and mimicked Hagerty’s “Moving with Time” as we became the characters of the painting, then morphed into another version of them, at the imagined touch of static electricity. Day 3 we explored the mystery of Lawrence’s “Accident” up close to the projected image, leaned in and considered what drew us towards both scary and joy-filled events. On Day 4, we spoke of forces, forces for good, forces for evil, making choices and where that force comes from inside of us, with Jansen’s “Lego Bricks” man.

Accident 1946 by Jacob Lawrence

Accident 1946 by Jacob Lawrence

Then we wrote. Each student wrote a 5 line poem, a Cinquain that combined the ideas, concepts, words we had explored that day. We wrote to the art we had seen, the music I played for them that, like the Gibbes’ images gave another contextual avenue to their imaginations. Then we drew. We “pictured” the scientific concepts as objects, just as the Gibbes’ images offered possibilities our brains tied to them.  It was glorious to watch, to hear their minds bend and dance around, (and to watch some of their counselors get as excited as the kids) as they found new ways to conceive ideas, to breathe life into pens and into markers on a blank page.  I wish you could have seen them, the frowns of concentration, the smiles of ah-ha!

On the last day of camp, before they read their poems and showed their drawings to the rest of the camp, and some parents who came to cheer them on, we reviewed concepts of science and writing. We recalled how onomatopoeia is like static electricity, how magnetism pulls and pushes, how each image from the Gibbes made us go, “WOW!”  Then we wrote a poem together, a class poem, that combined all our senses, all our concepts, all our imaginations—the one thing I told them they must bring to class each day. And then, I gave the students markers and pens and the gift of play-dough, (which they could take home courtesy of Engaging Creative Minds) turned on some music, and let them 3-D something, anything they had learned.

I am not an art teacher. What they made was not fine-tuned with artistic skill past what they owned instinctually. But when they molded a piece into the space between two tables, out of curiosity, and discovered what it would do to the clay, giving them a whole new direction to play towards; or when they made a concrete object out of a concept and explained it to the class in simple, eloquent words that intertwined definition #1 with definition #2 or #3, then I could go home, tired, good tired, and smile too.  It was a good week, a hard week sometimes, but each of us grew. Each child and adult who brought their imaginations with them, let them out to play together in the space where the arts meets the sciences, stretched ourselves in ways we might never have imagined, had we not joined our forces, forces for good.

Mary Hutchins Harris, Poet and Guest Blogger

Check the calendar for a full listing of fall classes for adult and children

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